A spate of hacker attacks has hit consumer confidence hard with one in five Britons claiming they’ve lost faith in large organisations. Our opinion of hackers isn’t any better, though perhaps we’re too hard on them?
Forty per cent of respondents to a survey by PC Tools think hacking is never justified, regardless of the motive; two-thirds view hackers as criminals and one in three Brits think they’re anti-social.
If anything I’m surprised these figures aren’t higher. Over the past year there’s been a series of high-profile hacks that have seen personal details stolen from innocent web users – such as the attack on Sony’s PlayStation Network that exposed users to identity theft, and an attack on Travelodge’s customer database.
Are hackers always to blame?
The perception is that there is an underground army of hackers out there laying claim to your personal data. But is that true?
A separate report from security firm Imperva sheds some light on the motivation and intention that drives hackers. The company monitors underground hacker forums and in its latest report reveals the top seven attacks discussed online last year. The top three are: SQL injections, DDoS attacks and spam or junk email.
The first two represent definite strikes at the heart of the large organisations we’ve lost faith in. SQL injections aim to exploit software bugs while in a DDoS attack hackers flood the networks of big businesses with traffic in a bid to take them down.
Only one side of the story
I’d never condone these actions. Like most people I’ve bought goods from a variety of online retailers, have an online bank account and a webmail account. Were any of these to be attacked it would present a serious threat to my personal identity.
However, I don’t think hackers are all bad and, before you crash my inbox, hear me out.
Let’s take Sony’s PlayStation Network as an example. Was it awful that millions of people’s data was exposed? Yes. Has Sony enhanced security since the attack? You betcha.
And, as well as shining an unwanted spotlight on Sony, the debacle raised important questions about how customers are notified of this type of security breach. Sony drew fire from many for delaying to inform customers that their personal data might be at risk.
Lessons to be learned
Another look at Imperva’s report acts as a warning to consumers. It’s critical that big businesses invest in a belt-and-braces approach to security, but we must also do our bit.
There’s a lot of discussion within forums on “social engineering” – i.e. how to con or hustle money out of you. One of the best examples of this is the still prevalent phishing emails that purport to come from your bank and then ask you to enter your personal details.
Hacking for financial gain is wrong. It’s a crime and the authorities should fight it. But there’s a small minority of the hacking community that hacks companies to show them where they’re going wrong. Many of these people become ethical hackers and a very few end up working for the very companies they’ve hacked.
Should we tarnish all hackers with the same brush? I’d argue not.
Do you think all hackers are bad?
Yes (55%, 120 Votes)
No (38%, 84 Votes)
Don't know (7%, 16 Votes)
Total Voters: 220